I went to Mass tonight, as I usually do on Saturday evenings. As I entered the church, I felt a sense of peace that was almost supernatural descend upon me. I was a little early for the 6:00 P.M. service, so I knelt down in the pew to have a few words with the Lord.
The lights were dimmed and the music minister was strumming an electric guitar, softly playing a familiar hymn. There were other people around the church, some were kneeling in prayer, others were sitting quietly probably talking to God in their hearts. Possibly they were just sitting quietly, absorbing the peace and obeying the Biblical injunction: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
On the side altar, there is a small structure that resembles a miniature house. It is made of white marble and there a golden door in the front. It is called the tabernacle. Above the tabernacle a lantern containing a red candle is suspended. When the candle is burning, it signals the congregation that Jesus, under the appearance of bread and wine, is present in the tabernacle.
You see, Catholics take Jesus at His word. At the Last Supper, the night before He died, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His Apostles saying: “Take,eat; this is My body.” Matthew 26:26
Then He took a cup of wine, and after giving thanks He gave it to them saying: “Drink from this all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26: 27-28
Then He gave them a directive: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19
Jesus did not say the bread and wine just represented or symbolized His body and blood, but He stated that they actually were His body and blood. Catholics through the centuries has chosen to take Him at His word.
We believe that power to change bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood has been handed down through many generations of the clergy to the present-day priests and bishops of the Church. There are texts dating from the first and second century A.D., such as the Didache, which attest that the early Church celebrated Holy Communion in much the same way as we do today.
When I entered the church this evening, I believe that I actually came into the presence of God. I bowed, as you would to an earthly king, by touching my right knee to the floor; Catholics call this genuflecting. I entered the pew, knelt down, took a few moments to soak in the atmosphere of sanctity and serenity. Then I began my conversation with Jesus, present in the tabernacle.
Some of my human friends were in the pews around me, and we would visit later, if not tonight then later in the week, in person, by phone or by e-mail. This is the special time and special place, when we are privileged to commune directly with the Divine.
Soon the Mass started. The priest once more began the ancient rite which brings Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity, among His present-day followers.
To me, this is the best part of belonging to the Catholic Church. During Mass, Catholics receive Jesus in Holy Communion. When we leave the sanctity and serenity of the church after Mass, He remains in our hearts. We have all the inspiration and help we will need to meet the problems and challenges of the week ahead.
Could any other religion offer its followers more than this?